Moran, Patrick Francis (1830–1911), cardinal, was born 16 September 1830 at Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, youngest of five children of Patrick Moran, businessman, and Alicia Moran (née Cullen). For both parents, it was their second marriage. Orphaned in 1841, Moran was cared for in Rome by his mother's half-brother, Paul Cullen (qv), rector of the Irish College. He spent the next twenty-four years in that city, guided by his uncle and imbibing in considerable measure the quality of Romanità he expressed in a lifelong loyalty to the person of the pope and office of the papacy. During his education at the Roman Seminary and the Urban College of Propaganda Fide he witnessed the Roman revolution of 1848–9. This event – rather unusually – served to temper his reaction to radical change and, later, he was more prepared than many of his contemporaries to accept the need for progressive developments. He acquired considerable skill in nine languages and was awarded a doctorate in divinity at the age of 22 with Archbishop Pecci (later Leo XIII) as an examiner. Moran was ordained priest on 19 March 1853, and was appointed vice-rector of the Irish College and professor of Hebrew at Propaganda. He made contacts in, and worked for, several Vatican Congregations; and became a Roman in all but his origins. While in Rome and later he wrote or edited several works on Irish ecclesiastical history, including Historical sketch of the persecutions suffered by the catholics of Ireland under the rule of Cromwell and the puritans (Dublin, 1862), History of the catholic archbishops of Dublin, vol. 1 (1864) Spicilegium Ossoriense (1874), and The analecta of David Rothe, bishop of Ossory (1884). In 1866 he returned to Ireland to become private secretary to Cullen, by then cardinal-archbishop of Dublin. Moran was successively appointed professor of Hebrew and Scripture at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe, editor of the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, and, by 1872, bishop of Ossory. He was a diligent and exemplary pastor, respected and feared by his priests ‘but little loved’. 6 ft 3 in. tall, he was a striking, aloof figure, though his health was delicate.
A sense of Irish nationality had quickly become part of Moran's being. He was little disposed to British rule but he condemned Fenianism lest it heighten British repression. At Leo XIII's request, he investigated the state of Ireland; his condemnation of British policies caused agitation in some Vatican circles. Moran's rumoured appointment as archbishop of Sydney led to opposition among English bishops and from a British government agent. Leo supported the appointment and Moran arrived in Sydney in September 1884. At once he publicly declared that henceforth he would be an Australian. A few months later he was called to Rome, where Leo created him cardinal-priest. Moran was the first cardinal in the new world of the west Pacific. The catholic church in Australia was still in its formative stages; Moran's task was to lead it to greater maturity as archbishop of the mother church of Sydney and as the representative of the pope. In plenary councils (1885, 1895, 1905) he brought the church in Australia into closer alignment with Roman thought and discipline, while mindful of its particular needs. One special need was for a native-born and locally educated clergy. To provide them, St Patrick's College, Manly, was opened in 1889. Moran took a close interest in its development throughout his episcopate, but Australian nationality did not see its flowering in the appointment of Australian-born bishops in his day. Catholic education was his special concern and, by his death, over three-quarters of the catholic children were schooled by religious orders. He almost brought to conclusion the building of St Mary's cathedral and consecrated it – debt free – in 1905. Although his cry for the provision of missionaries for Polynesia and Melanesia and support for work among the aborigines elicited modest enthusiasm in Rome, it received little local encouragement. He laboured on two works on Australian history: his History of the catholic church in Australasia (1895), a massive tome of documents with some commentary, has been lasting in its value and use by scholars, while his Discovery of Australia by Don Quiros in the year 1606 (1906) lost none of its crusading fervour by its mistaken claim for the priority of Quiros's discovery.
Convinced that he had a duty to offer leadership to the wider Australian community, Moran became a leading and, at times, controversial public figure. He condemned anti-Chinese legislation in the 1880s and '90s and gained the sobriquet ‘the chow's patron’. The conservative elements of European catholicism had no appeal to him, and the crusade against modernism left him cold. He was strongly anti-Semitic during the Dreyfus affair. As a resolute supporter of female suffrage he allowed his name to be used in campaigns to that end in Europe.
Moran became best known in Australia through his support for the Australian Labor Party, which he saw as a bulwark against both socialism and unrestrained capitalism. Like Cardinal Manning in London, Moran stood by the workers. He took their side during the maritime strike in 1890, lectured on ‘The rights and duties of labour’, proclaimed that Australia's enemy was ‘not socialism but imperial jingoism’, and upset conservative elements, both catholic and protestant, by asserting that nothing in the platform of the Labor Party made it unacceptable to catholics. Moran had aroused enmity against his own role – and the church he represented – by his criticism of other denominations, despite his awareness of the latent element of sectarianism in the community. This reached a peak when his secretary P. F. O'Haran was cited as co-respondent in a divorce case. In the meantime Moran publicly supported the Australian Federation movement then gaining momentum throughout the colonies. Hoping to contribute directly to making Australia ‘a great centre of Christian civilisation’ that would take Christianity to the Pacific and to China, he stood as a candidate for the Australasian federal convention in 1897. It was an injudicious step and he was defeated on sectarian grounds. He accepted his loss with grace and continued to propound his views on an independent defence force and foreign policy. Rome was not prepared to accept Moran's imprudent nomination of O'Haran as his auxiliary bishop, and his last years were unhappy principally because Michael Kelly (qv), appointed in 1901 as his coadjutor with the right of succession, was both idle and incompetent.
On 16 August 1911 Moran was found dead in his room at Manly and, after appropriate ceremonies, was buried in his cathedral. He had worn the Roman purple with honour, graced his archiepiscopal role, and strengthened the catholic church in Australasia. His material legacy was a debt of £304 4s. 10d. A bronze statue by Bertram Mackennal stands outside St Mary's cathedral.